Part-Time Wife. 1930. USA. Directed by Leo McCarey. Screenplay by Raymond L. Schrock, Leo McCarey, Howard Green. With Leila Hyams, Edmund Lowe, Tom Clifford, Walter McGrail, Sam Lufkin. 35mm preservation print courtesy of the UCLA Film & Television Archive. 67 min.
Leo McCarey remembered Part-Time Wife fondly as “a very funny movie”—and also as the film that enabled him to double his salary. The film is widely seen as a dry run for the 1937 classic The Awful Truth, with McCarey himself saying his later movie had “two or three scenes…that are paraphrases of identical scenes in Part-Time Wife.” Leila Hyams must have connected well with the improvisational, mercurial McCarey, as she shows up in a charming supporting role in 1935’s Ruggles of Red Gap. She’d get married and retire the following year. But in the early 1930s, Hyams was still playing leads, and her twinkling humor is extremely well served by this tale of a wife who loves golf so much that her estranged husband (Edmund Lowe) learns the game in order to win her back. Part-Time Wife has been restored by UCLA but, sadly, reel two (out of nine total) has been lost to nitrate deterioration. Fortunately, the missing reel doesn’t affect continuity for most viewers, and the film remains a delightful prototype for the screwball style that McCarey would later perfect.